Apple offers feedback on California’s proposed driverless testing rule changes

Apple has offered feedback to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) concerning its proposed new rule changes regarding autonomous vehicle testing on state roads. The formal feedback provided by Apple is relatively short and to the point, contained in a letter submitted to the DMV and embedded below, signed by Apple Director of Product Integrity Steve Kenner (who also authored the letter that first revealed Apple’s autonomy ambitions).

In short, Apple suggests some changes to disengagement reporting that tighten the definition, which would result in fewer incidents requiring a report when an autonomous driving software system is turned off while a vehicle is driving. Apple also asks for clarifications around necessity of safety drivers during testing, loosen some requirements around what kind of vehicles can qualify for use during testing, and that it add in some language around stopping fallback tech in sections detailing testing without safety drivers on board.

The DMV is seeking to expand testing to include scenarios where there isn’t actually a human safety driver present behind the wheel, which would be a crucial step towards making driverless cars on roads in a commercial service capacity a viable reality for companies hoping to do things like offer autonomous delivery and ride hailing services.

Apple’s letter also reveals some interesting details about the company’s thinking on the matter of automation in general, and autonomous driving in particular. Apple says in the note that it “is investing heavily in the study of machine learning and automation, and is excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation.”